Married to the Messenger: Perspectives of a Newly Planted Wife
It had been years since my husband Ben had preached a sermon and this was his first preaching opportunity since becoming the Pastor of Small Groups at our new church. We had Saturday evening services at the time followed by an additional two on Sunday mornings. I stayed home with our small children Saturday night for that first of three weekend services; praying earnestly for his message. When Ben got home that night, exhausted from his endeavors, he received a text from our senior pastor that in essence said, “Remove the entire section after your first point. It doesn't fit the text.” In retrospect he could see it and even agreed; nonetheless he was profoundly discouraged by the last-minute edit. It was a trial by fire course on preaching and by Sunday morning he was smoldering a bit with feelings of failure while he got back into the ring for rounds two and three. And I, as his wife and closest companion, had a few ashes lying around my feet as well.
My husband, who ended up deeply grateful for this preaching lesson, planted our church in the spring of 2019. We began as a campus with live feed from our sending church, so while he did preach intermittently from day one, he did not begin his full-time stint of opening God’s Word every week until December of that year. I’ve now had over 18 months of sitting underneath his teaching full-time. The Lord has used this time to shape me just as much as it has him. Below are the three most important lessons I have learned thus far from being married to the messenger.
Priority of Preparation
I loved being married to a small groups pastor and being involved in local church ministry. The Lord had uniquely prepared me for its pressures through an intense season of our lives directly preceding his joining the staff at our church. But for the most part his role essentially functioned like an 8-to-5. Yes, he had to arrive early Sunday mornings and I would need to prepare our three, and then five, children for church on my own every week. Yes, there was always at least one night a week where he had counseling sessions or other responsibilities that took him away from home. But as a general rule, his time at home was fairly protected. Our days off were easily and strictly kept without much weighing in on his mental space.
Then we planted our church and he began to preach full time. My world turned upside down a bit. I once heard a fellow GCC pastor claim that preaching a sermon was like delivering a baby on Sunday and then finding out you are pregnant again on Monday morning! Every single week that baby has to arrive and if the days at the office get busy, as they often do, the message still needs to be written. My husband is called to preach and the baby has to be born. Being married to the messenger means there will be times he needs to be preparing where I will wish he didn’t need to be. I have taken our children to parks, zoos, or library visits, on my own, far more than I ever realized would be required of me. It was painful to start and I admittedly did not handle it in the most gracious way. I am thankful for God’s grace which offers forgiveness of my sins and continually shapes both my husband and me as we continue to navigate the priority of the preparation; not neglecting our family but also giving room for the weight that he carries every single week.
The Value of Vulnerability
I am a fairly transparent person, but the vulnerability it took to sit in the front row and listen to my husband share from the Word, and his heart, was excruciating for me in the beginning. I continually had to battle feelings of anxiety. I usually bring a journal with me to church. I primarily use it to capture notes from the sermon, but in those early months of learning to be vulnerable with our congregation it was also scribbled with prayers to the Lord. Whenever Ben would begin an illustration from our family life, I immediately felt exposed. I was used to this in smaller groups, but not in an entire sanctuary filled with people, oftentimes with new and different faces. To his credit, Ben has grown a lot in his discernment and in sharing the stories he plans to use with me beforehand. And I have learned that allowing him the freedom to teach from the context of our lives is a sacrifice I make unto the Lord. I feel a little bit like Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6 when he describes being poured out as a drink offering.
I feel a little bit like Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6 when he describes being poured out as a drink offering.
I don't think it is a coincidence that Paul’s description of himself comes directly after his remarks on preaching! I’m confident that my husband senses this even more profoundly than I do, but don't discount the way a preacher’s wife feels in listening to every word that her husband shares. It is a unique offering of her own to the body of Christ.
Critiquing with Kindness
During a recent conference a fellow pastor’s wife shared that she never critiqued her husband’s sermons. I cringed inside and immediately asked Ben after the session, “Is it okay for me to critique your sermons?”
“Yes,” he immediately responded, “I need your comments, you know me best and you have good insight. Just try to watch the way you say things.” Phew! I respect that every couple is different; there is certainly room to function differently in our ministries. I am also thankful that my husband welcomes my comments because this is what comes most naturally for us. He exudes humility in allowing me to speak into things at times and I have learned that the way I approach comments really matters to him. He will listen to anything I have to say if I approach him with a humble heart and with kindness. I have had to grow in both of these traits; thankfully they are fruit from the Holy Spirit and the Lord desires to grow them in us! As for Ben, in the 18 months of him preaching full time, I have seen him grow tremendously. I am finding less to critique. Our kids will even comment at the dinner table, “Woah, Dad, Mom liked your entire sermon today!” The humble leader of our family simply smiles and says, “That’s a miracle.”
And so, through the Lord’s careful pruning process I have grown in supporting the long hours of sermon preparation, seeing the value of vulnerability, and in critiquing his sermons with kindness.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
I remember back to that Saturday evening several years ago when Ben was asked to change a significant part of his sermon before the morning and the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:24 come to mind, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Being married to the messenger is just another means to see the faithfulness of God in our lives. We can trust that He will surely do it, because in the end it is all used for His glory, even the fiery trials that lay smoldering at our feet.
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